Joseph, Husband of Mary (Repost – 2013)

The Earliest fresco of the Virgin Mary, in the...
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This is a yearly repost…

One of the most forgotten men in the Scriptures is Joseph, who was a man from the line of David who had  a certain Jewish girl espoused to him. He makes a small appearance in Matthew and Luke, the only two Gospels to record something about him. His name appears only a few times in all of the New Testament. It is only in Matthew’s work which we find him and his actions as any part of the story,

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Mat 1:18-25 NLT)

A wise man once said that the words that we read are the headlines, and this is especially true in this case. We find a great story of love and sacrifice in Joseph, in as much as he was willing to become an outcast – if only temporarily – in order to protect Mary, the young girl who he would have paid a dowry – the young girl who carried the public signs of a betrayal. The law required death for Mary. In this instance, we find the first shadow of the Grace which was to come.

The law is clear – death for Mary:

“If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NKJV)

Mary was considered evil – a blot on the community, something to be killed and done away with – exterminated ruthlessly. We see something in the horror of the law that is not mentioned – the great love of Joseph for Mary. He would have paid a dowry, perhaps a goodly sum for the espousal. He would have made preparations for Mary in his home, and already giving her that which was sacred – his family name. I can only imagine what love he  had for her and the loss he felt to have gone so far but to have been betrayed with such a great sin. She had slandered him, his family, and his family name.

Joseph had such a love that he was determined to take the ridicule, the shame, and give her the bill of divorce  privately. Like anyone in pain due to love, with his heart breaking, he most likely took time, mourning, to determine his next course of action for the young Jewish girl whom he clearly loved.

If we step away from Joseph, to a higher plane, we can see the sovereignty of God in this matter. God did not just choose Mary, and because of that Joseph, for no reason. Joseph was a man of great love (Mary with her own qualities), a love that would rather endure shame and the outcast of a community instead of harming Mary. He would risk breaking the Law of Moses to protect someone who he loved. What better caretaker for the son of God?

Returning to Joseph, we find that it was in the middle of his deliberations – I can imagine them maddening and tortured – that the Angel of the Lord appeared to him with words of consolation. So, with this love of Joseph, we find faith. Joseph disobeyed the cultural mores of ancient Palestine, obeying rather the will of God, and held Mary as his wife, in the face of what would have been certain opposition from everyone, perhaps even his parents as well as Mary’s.

So, we have a picture of Grace and Love in the life of Christ even before He began His ministry. Joseph was ready to sacrifice his standing in his family and community to save the life of  a pregnant girl – a trollop, a whore, a sinner – and to protect her and her unborn Son – the bastard child of this trollop and perhaps a Roman solider, Panthera – from the death demanded by the Torah. It was because of this love that the Angel appeared to Joseph the Carpenter and told him that this Child would be the deliverer of all Israel. His wife who was dead to him was now alive again.

If we remove the doctrine and traditions that surround both Mary and Joseph, we find a picture of grace – we find love – we find a truly holy family.

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Post By Joel Watts (10,056 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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31 thoughts on Joseph, Husband of Mary (Repost – 2013)

  1. If we remove “the doctrine and traditions” of both Mary and Joseph, we have nothing! For Scripture itself is both doctrine and tradition, least for the Catholic understanding. Also not sure what the community around Joseph and Mary knew really? St. Luke 2: 19-35

    • Yes, because that is what this post was about. Please try to stay on point and in Scripture.

      I could care less for your present understanding, after all, I thought you said you would leave this blog alone. Perhaps its time you became truthful in this matter.

      • It is rather hard sometimes to see you state mis-truth…really hard! But you are right, it’s your bog. But you know next to nothing about “Catholic” doctrine and tradition!

        • Tell me, where in this post did I ‘state mis-truth?’ I know plenty about ‘Catholic’ doctrine and tradition and I know plenty about you. Remember, stay on point about this post.

  2. The Sacred or Holy Scripture is itself both doctrine and tradition, given to the Church Catholic! (1 Tim.3:15). And as I said, what did the community really know around or about Joseph and Mary. Again, Luke 2:19-35. But this is my last statement, promise. As you said, this is your blog.

    • Yeah, I’ve that and a whole host of other statements which turned out rather false before.

      Wow, what a difference a day makes, huh? Suddenly, Tradition is above Scripture? Or, are you just trying to make a point, again, and fail miserably at doing so?

      • If I seek to answer, then I break my word again (so-called), and you will try again to use this against me, on this your “bully pulpit”… blog. Haven’t we both had enough of each other? I’m sure we have! Let’s have silence between ourselves, and cease.

        Peace of Christ,

    • Thank you a great deal, Steph, and to your and yours a warm (which I know you already have) holiday season.

      • Thanks – but I haven’t! Maurice and I are housebound with snow and horridible ice while my large whanau are congregating down in Aotearoa at the beach!! But I just love the picture you’ve recreated. That’s warmly wonderful.

        • Here, the snow is melting, and we are expecting a rather nice day tomorrow with some family. Presents in the morning, I reckon, then Turkey, blessed Turkey. Its a real tradition.

          • Bliss …. I expect my whanau will be having a barbecue – last year the boys went bush and shot a goat, a rabbit and a pig or was it a deer, hung, marinated and barbecued with lots of salads … of course I skip the meats but still participate in it’s cooking. And then of course piles of presents for millions of children – mainly homemade, they’re a crafty lot my family – and big decorated pine tree dripping with pine needles, Christmas lilies with heavenly scent … I wanna go home!!!!

          • Mean kiwi…just mean….

            We’ll have our turkey and stuffing/dressing tomorrow with a carrot souffle, bread rolls, iced tea, broccoli and cheese casserole and some dessert.

        • You know, Steph, while you are snowbound…if you wanted to write a post on the value of modern scholarship…. Just saying

          • That would be an independent historical critical approach … not all modern scholarship is helpful – we’ve still got the apologists and the religion hating atheists and the blinking mythers!

          • True and fair enough. Of course, some believe that any scholarship except that which conforms to their standard is inherently evil. Personally, I am looking forward to spending more time in 2nd Temple Judaism, with the aid of Bauckham :) hoping to end the year in a Master’s program. I’m not a fan of some of the historical critical methods, but I did like the social memory concept of the Historigraphical Jesus.

          • And 2nd Temple Judaism will be very ‘helpful’, and Bauckham has produced some excellent work … although he’s beginning to slide dangerously towards apologetics…

            I wasn’t impressed with the method applied by whats his name in Historiographical Jesus and what he avoids although April de Conick has done excellent and very helpful work on social memory.

          • I think that Le Donne has a good start, but I also believe that he is circular somewhat with Tradition, especially Incarnational viewpoints. He essentially comes to the same conclusion an apologist would but with more roads traveled.

          • Le Donne – yes! I had to go and look. It’s on the floor by Maurice’s desk …. and it’s snowing! Yuck…

          • You’re cruel! I think 50 is more than 10 – we’re minus 4. It never gets cold like this at home.

  3. A good piece. As always.

    At least some of the Catholic tradition of Joseph and Mary and Mary’s parents are based on Apocryphal sources. I worked this out from what is prayed at Novenas – and very little of it is in the Gospels.

    • There is a lot in the Catholic Tradition about Mary and Joseph which comes from the Proto-Gospel of James, I believe. What little we know of Joseph, from the Gospels, is of a man of a great love, I believe. We know that he kept the law, and we know what the Law said. We also know that he finally disobeyed the Law.

      And thank you for the kind words, NT.

      I hope all is well.

  4. don't we think if joseph calim he was mary husband, then he cover it her miracle perghant! the people if that time how could belief she be came perghant as miracle?!

  5. Thank you for this wonderful post! What Joseph did for Mary was a great sacrifice. We can learn a lot from this. The love of Joseph for Mary was greater than the love that he has for himself. He sacrificed everything he had to protect Mary and the holy child in her womb. He is a perfect example for all the fathers out there.

  6. Pingback St. Joseph | A Pastor's Thoughts

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